Musical Concepts Used to Tune a Guitar

You need to understand certain concepts about music in order to learn how to tune a guitar. An understanding of the pitches of the musical alphabet and how adjusting the tuning machines on the guitar affect these pitches is essential.

Musical Pitches and Guitar Strings

Pitch is the relative highness or lowness of a given sound in music. Pitches are represented by the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Starting with the thickest string, the strings of the guitar are tuned to the pitches E, A, D, G, B, E. The first E string is known as the low E string, while the other E string is known as the high E string.

The Musical Alphabet

The musical alphabet is the series of letters from A to G. If you reach the end of this alphabet, you simply start over with A.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A

This concept is important to understand for tuning the guitar, especially if you are using an electronic tuner. Knowing where you are in the musical alphabet will help you determine whether to tune the string higher or lower. For example, if you are tuning the low E string, and you have tuned the string up to an 'F', you have probably tuned the string too high, since 'F' comes after 'E' in the musical alphabet. This means that you need to tune the string down to get to 'E.'

Tuning the Guitar

Tuning the guitar requires raising or lowering each string to a specific pitch. This is done by turning the tuning machines. Turning the machines so that the string becomes tighter will raise the pitch, while loosening the string will lower the pitch.

Tuning machines on the guitar

Tuning machines are arranged in a variety of ways depending on the guitar, so you will need to experiment with turning the tuning machines on your guitar to find which direction will raise the pitch and which lowers it.

Don't worry about getting the guitar perfectly in tune at first. Although this should be your ultimate goal, tuning is a skill that takes practice to develop.